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From the wide variety of soft drinks, candies, and baked goods sold around the world, it’s clear that people love sweets. But consuming too much white table sugar or artificial sweetener can lead to health problems. In the search for a better sweetener, researchers in the ACS Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry now report a low-calorie concoction that is as sweet as table sugar and, in laboratory experiments, feeds “good” gut microbes.

Artificial sweeteners have become very popular because they allow people to consume sweets without the calories. However, while they are considered safe for human consumption, animal and human studies suggest that some of them may stimulate appetite, leading to increased food intake and weight gain, as well as other negative health outcomes. health. Therefore, researchers have been turning to the study of low-calorie or extremely sweet substances from natural sources as possible replacements. For example, galactooligosaccharides, found in mammalian milk, are low-calorie sugars with prebiotic activity that can be a source of energy for beneficial gut microbes, but are not sweet enough to replace table sugar . Alternatively, extracts from the luo han guo fruit contain mogrosides, compounds 200 to 300 times sweeter than table sugar. But these extracts sometimes have off-flavours, which can be removed with enzymes. So, F. Javier Moreno and his colleagues wanted to take advantage of the best aspects of both natural substances, using enzymes to modify mogrosides and at the same time produce galactooligosaccharides for a new low-calorie sweetener.

The researchers started with lactose and mogroside V (the main mogroside in luo han guo fruit). When they added β-galactosidase enzymes, the researchers obtained a mixture that contained mainly galactooligosaccharides and a small amount of modified mogrosides. A trained sensory panel reported that the new combination had a sweetness similar to that of sucrose (table sugar), suggesting that it might be acceptable to consumers. In test-tube experiments, the new sweetener increased levels of multiple beneficial human gut microbes, including Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus bacterial species. Additionally, increases in metabolites produced by bacteria, such as acetate, propionate, and butyrate, indicated that the blend might have a prebiotic effect on the gut microbiome. The researchers say the new sweetener shows promise in these initial analyses, and their next step is to study the substance’s impact on human gut health more closely.

The authors acknowledge funding from Optibiotix Health Plc (York, UK), the Spanish Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities, and the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme. One of the study authors is an employee of Optibiotix Health Plc.

Materials provided by the American Chemical Society. Note: content can be edited for style and length.

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